As duffy boats putter around the calm wake of Newport’s harbor at sunset, I’m seated at Nobu’s new four-seat omakase cocktail bar. The first drink, an aperitif, is forged with a branding iron heated via blow torch until glowing red, then sizzles deeply into freshly cut citrus skin, sending up a puff of oily smoke. “NOBU” it reads, Gin & Roses is the drink. Welcome to the jungle, baby!
The tasting bar has two bartenders, seemingly liquid puppeteers putting on a show; the experience is more than intimate; you’re part of it. The five acts span a delicate tasting menu that proves cocktails do in fact pair with food, such as the second course, where thumb-sized light and creamy uni tacos match exquisitely with the creamy quail-egg froth of the Nashi Kumo, an Asian pear Pisco sour.
Being Nobu, there’s a certain level of expectation for the food, and the beauty is in the details, which are executed meticulously. Everything from a hand-carved ice ball for the Japanese whiskey Old Fashioned, down to the brick-oven roasted Wagyu paired with it that brought a tear to my eye. Each course transcends the next, each cocktail is thought out and mixed with balance. The chef matches his tasting menu with the drink, sometimes elevating the drink’s nuance.
For $85, don’t expect large portions. However, I will say the five drinks alone are worth it. The seating flows perfectly over an hour and doesn’t seem rushed. The experience, which begins Oct. 11, is by reservation only. With just four seats, it will fill up fast.
NOBU NEWPORT BEACH GRAND CORDON TASTING MENU
Aperitif Gin n’ Roses Hendricks gin, Lillet Blanc, Lanson rose, Cocchi Americano
Second Course Hattori Hanzo Reserve 28 Sake, Giffard Peche, Fresh Peach Puree Chilean Sea Bass with Dashi Soy Serrano
Third Course Smoke & Cedar Iwai Whisky, Blood Orange, Luxardo Cherry in a Cedar-Smoked Glass Brick oven Roasted A-5 Wagyu with Vanilla Den Miso
Fourth Course Canela de Coco Horchata, Stoli Vanilla, Malibu rum, Fresh-Brewed Espresso Paired with a Dessert Trio Ginger-Salted Caramel Hazelnut Praline Truffle Coated in Guanaja Chocolate, and Raspberry Macaroon filled with White Chocolate with Raspberry Compote
Nobu is at 3450 Via Oporto Suite 101, Newport Beach // noburestaurants.com